Arnab Goswami, the representative face and founder of right-wing channel Republic TV, was arrested at his home in Mumbai, Maharashtra state, western India on Wednesday for allegedly playing a role in the death of Anvay Naik, who died from suicide in 2018, according to a statement on Wednesday from the broadcaster.
Ashok Dudhe, the chief of the Raigad district police in western Maharashtra state, confirmed that Goswami was arrested for allegedly abetting a suicide, a crime that, under India’s criminal code, could be charged 10 years imprisonment sentence in India. Goswami and two others were taken to judicial ward late Wednesday night, by court order.
In a video posted online in May and widely shared by Indian social media users, Naik̵7;s wife Akshata Naik alleges that Goswami helped Naik commit suicide by not paying Naik to design it. His TV studio. Naik’s suicide note – which CNN verified independently of Naik’s daughter – claims that Goswami and the other two owe him $ 726,000.
But Goswami and Republic TV deny those allegations, saying in a statement Wednesday that 90% of the money was paid to Naik’s company over two years ago. The official court documents for the case do not state whether the money was paid before or after his death.
According to Goswami’s The police claimed to have previously investigated him for allegedly playing a role in the suicide, but the case was closed last April after police found “no illegal evidence. Come on. “
That sentiment has been bolstered by members of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, but state politicians deny that the arrest is political.
Investigations resumed after a new complaint came from Naik’s wife, by court order. Later, more evidence appeared in the case against Goswami.
CNN has contacted the Mumbai Crime Bureau but has not received a comment. Raigad police confirmed Goswami’s arrest but has not shared more details on the investigation.
Was Goswami’s arrest an attack on press freedom?
When Naik passed away in 2018, Maharashtra was run by BJP.
But in last year’s parliamentary elections, Maharashtra voted against BJP, instead forming a more liberal coalition government of Shiv Sena, the Indian Parliament and the National Congress Party.
Over the following months, Goswami and Republic TV became outspoken critics of the state’s left-wing leaders, while also boosting support for BJP. In their statement Wednesday, the channel argued that the arrest was “retaliation” for his reporting.
But Maharashtra officials have denied that.
When asked if Goswami was arrested for his negative comments about the Maharashtra government, State Interior Minister Anil Deshmukh – a member of the Congress Party – told reporters that the investigation was made. comply with law and order.
“Nobody is above the law,” he told reporters on Wednesday.
Sanjay Raut, a Maharashtra lawmaker from the Shiv Sena Party, one of the party governing the state, told local media: “Police can act if they have evidence against anyone … Since When established (last year’s state government), has not taken action against anyone for revenge. ”
In their statement on Wednesday, Goswami and Republic TV said: “It is shocking that a case that has been decisively closed has been reopened with the sole purpose of abusing power, disguising itself. Arnab Goswami actually and forcibly detained Arnab Goswami in an act of revenge and revenge for his news of questioning the authorities in Maharashtra.
Goswami’s arrest has also sparked anger from high-ranking BJP figures who are outraged at his arrest.
Indian Interior Minister Amit Shah called the arrest a “strike against the free press.”
“Congress and its allies have worsened democracy again,” he said. “Blatant abuse of state power against Republic TV & Arnab Goswami is an attack on personal liberty and the fourth pillar of democracy … This attack is on press freedom. lice and will be opposed. “
CNN has reached out to Raut and Deshmukh for comment.
What is the foundation of the case?
For months, Goswami used his platform to bring down the Maharashtra authorities for failing to further investigate another famous death described by the police as suicide.
After his son’s death, Rajput’s father KK Singh filed a complaint with the police in Bihar, the Indian state in which he lived, accusing Rajput’s girlfriend, actress Rhea Chakraborty, of stealing money from a bank account of her boyfriend and to support his suicide. That investigation led to a more extensive investigation of drug use in Bollywood and the arrest of Chakraborty on drug charges, even though Chakraborty was released on bail last month.
Goswami was among a number of political leaders and media commentators who gave the story that Rajput’s death was indeed a murder, despite the authorities discovering it was a suicide. .
Republic TV criticized the Mumbai Police’s handling of Rajput’s death, claiming that Bollywood was covering up crimes including murder and drug abuse.
Last month, four Bollywood industry associations and top 34 Bollywood producers filed a civil lawsuit against two media companies – including Goswami’s Republic TV – asking them not to proceed to a trial of the media. the media has a Bollywood personality and does not make irresponsible and defamatory remarks, according to DMK Legal, which represents production companies.
BJP politicians used Rajput’s death to campaign in Bihar, home to the Rajput family. Rajput’s face and hashtags “#JusticeForSushant” were used on campaign posters for the state legislative assembly election, which is currently in progress.
The candidates have been accused of using Rajput’s death to score political points against their opponents and distract attention from BJP’s pandemic handling.
CNN’s Vedika Sud contributes reports from New Delhi and Meenketan Jha contributes reports from Hong Kong.